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Stanbrook & Hooper and Bird & Bird have benefited from the break-up of Belgian firm Cannart Andre-Dumont Erkelens Goethals.
Brussels-based Stanbrooks has lured two of the firm's partners - Emmanuel de Cannart d'Hamale and Hubert Andre-Dumont - and four associates to set up its Belgian corporate and commercial department.
Another Cannarts partner, Catherine Erkelens, has joined Bird & Bird's Brussels IP department as a partner.
Stanbrooks partner Clive Stanbrook QC says that the firm is moving into Belgian law following the introduction of the legal services directive on 1 January, which requires lawyers to enrol in their local bar.
"Before we just did EC law and if there was Belgian law we would pass it on. But EC law is becoming more integrated and we were increasingly going to others.
"In the past we did not spend enough time thinking strategically because we have always had a good client base.
"Setting up a Belgian unit that can handle the clients coming to this firm is very hard. We had to go for strength and experience and we were very fortunate to get that."
The firm has also recruited trade and competition partner Fred Lukoff from the Brussels office of US firm Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly.
He is bringing with him of counsel Wang Lei, a former member of China's WTO membership negotiating team, and labour lawyer Marcel Houben as partners.
"Fred Lukoff is an old hand in Brussels. He has been around longer than I have," says Stanbrook.
The new recruits give Stanbrooks approximately 25 lawyers and further expansion is planned. Stanbrook says: "Cases are getting larger and our clients expect us to have access to bigger resources. Even niche firms like ours have to expand."
Two other partners from Cannarts, Michel Goethals and Thierry Geurts, are launching a Brussels tax practice for German firm Haarmann Hemmelrath & Partner which has recently opened a London office.